Where Is God When It Hurts? A 7 Day Study On Finding God In Our Pain

Day 5 of 7 • This day’s reading


With the last three days of this study, I want to take us deeper—as deep, in fact, as I think we are able to go—by anchoring our insights in the central story of our salvation: the story of Jesus.

He came as one of us, God of very God into a sin-stained world. One of Jesus’s best friends wrote: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14). Eugene Peterson paraphrases: “The Word became flesh, and moved into the neighborhood…” The “bodied” God, Jesus of Nazareth moved into the neighborhood. He did the works of God—opening blind eyes and unstopping deaf ears and liberating the mute tongue; he welcomed the outcast and dined with sinners and dignified those whom society had degraded. His one purpose was to make manifest the good intention of God in a world overrun by sin and death.

His words and deeds scandalized the religious elite. And so they conspired with the ruling Roman authorities to have him put to death. The crowds that once lauded him turned bloodthirsty, calling for his crucifixion. “His blood be on us, and on our children…” (Matt. 27:25) they howled in rage. And yet, to his dying breath, our gracious God, Jesus the Lord, blessed them and spoke mercy over them: “Father, forgive them,” he pleaded, “for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The Father accepted the entreaty of Jesus his Son, for three days later, he was raised by the power of God, set beyond the reach of death forever, triumphant and reconciling. Paul writes that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them…” (2 Cor. 5:19). One day, every creature in heaven and on earth will erupt in song: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13).

Now I want you to stop right there. If you have been a believer for any length of time, your familiarity with the story will tend to give it an air of obviousness, even inevitability, as though what did happen is in fact what had to happen. But that is not so. Adam and Eve were under no compulsion to disobey God. They need not have sinned, plunging the world into ruin and destruction, and so making necessary the saving mission of the Son. It may have been otherwise. And yet—and here is the wisdom and power and genius of our God, which Paul draws attention to in our passage for the day—God uses the trespass to make grace explode upon the world through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, so that when we look upon the story of our salvation, it seems as though this was the plan all along, for so much good has and is and will forever come from it. No wonder the ancient church called Adam and Eve’s sin “felix culpa”—the “happy fault” that gained for us so great a Redeemer. Or as Paul put it: “where sin increased, grace increased all the more…” (Rom. 5:20)

What we have been saying all along in this study is not an “outlier” in the biblical witness. It is not a sub-theme. It is the whole thing. The God who used the fault of Adam and Eve to bring about our great and glorious redemption is your God, too, and using evil to bring about good is not just something he does here and there; in a world so thoroughly stained with sin as ours is, it is what he is always and everywhere doing. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is proof.